It is important to develop your strategy for dental school manual dexterity question since you will be asked to demonstrate and discuss this important skill in several parts of the admissions process. Whether you are applying via AADSAS or to one of the dental schools in Canada, you are inevitably going to be asked to demonstrate or discuss your manual dexterity skills. In this article, we discuss why manual dexterity is so important for aspiring dental school students, provide advice on how to improve your dexterity skills and provide sample entries descriptions and interview answers that deal with manual dexterity!

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Article Contents
10 min read

Why Are You Asked Questions about Your Manual Dexterity Skills? When Will I Discuss My Manual Dexterity Skills? How to Improve Your Manual Dexterity What Can You Expect in the Interview? Sample Answers Included! Conclusion FAQs

Why Are You Asked Questions about Your Manual Dexterity Skills?

If you are wondering how to become a dentist, you have inevitably wondered what kind of skills and experiences you need to achieve your career goal. One of the most unique aspects of becoming a dentist is the requirement to develop and improve your manual dexterity skills: the aptitude to work skillfully and precisely with your hands is necessary for dentists.

Let’s discuss why you are even asked about your dental school manual dexterity skills in the first place. Why is this so important? To answer this question, let’s examine the everyday work that dentists perform: their work requires great precision and the ability to work in closed-off spaces on a very small scale. Most of the tasks dentists deal with require small, precise movements – your hand-eye coordination must be superb.

Essentially, dental schools must make sure that you can perform your tasks as a dentist, that you can work with your hands; and this is why your dental school application and the interview will inevitably ask you to discuss or demonstrate what you have done to develop manual dexterity.

Keep in mind that if you do not enjoy working with your hands, the dental vocation might not be the right career path for you. Therefore, developing your manual dexterity and seeing if working with your hands is an enjoyable experience are key before making the decision to attend dental school. However, if you simply do not know how to discuss your experiences in your application or interview, fear not! Our dental school admissions consulting experts are here to share with you how to best showcase your skills and experiences!

When Will I Discuss My Manual Dexterity Skills?

You might be wondering at what point in the admissions process you will be asked to discuss how you improved your manual dexterity. And right off the bat, be aware that you will be required to discuss this long before your interview.

Anyone sitting the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT) will be required to demonstrate their manual dexterity during the test. Typically, in the test, you will be asked to carve a piece of soap according to exact instructions. You will be shown a graphic that indicates the size, shape, and areas where the soap needs to be incised. This is a very important part of the DAT, which heavily influences your score and therefore dental school acceptance rates.

If you are applying via AADSAS, the application will actually have a section that asks you to list and describe experiences that helped you develop your dental school manual dexterity skills. Your entries cannot be very long – in fact, you will have very limited space. In each entry, you will be asked to briefly describe the activity, indicate the time period you were involved in the activity, and add any other relevant information about this activity. For example:

Note that you should separate each activity with numbers or semicolons and start each activity with a capital letter. As you can see, no verifiers or references are needed. Your activities can be hobbies like knitting or painting or serious commitments like being a part of an orchestra. It's important to understand that it's not the "prestige" of the activity that matters – you simply need to show that you have worked to develop your manual dexterity with activities that require small, precise movements. So, whether you are an accomplished sculptor or an amateur, the activity itself is what matters to the admissions committee.

And don’t forget about your dental school personal statement! Especially if you are applying to dental schools in Canada. Most schools will require you to submit an Autobiographical Sketch and /or Personal Statement as part of the application, so feel free to list the hobbies or activities that improved your manual dexterity there.

Don’t be afraid to use your personal statement to briefly highlight an activity you are/were involved in that improved your manual dexterity. However, do not feel that you need to write in detail about your musical hobby. Remember that your personal statement should outline why you came to the decision to become a dentist. So, if knitting did contribute to this decision, you may briefly include it in the essay. At the same time, your personal statement should include 2-3 really important, formative experiences that led you to apply to dental school, so you do not want to simply list a myriad of activities or experiences that you think will impress the admissions committee. If you can skillfully weave your musical hobby into the narrative, then go ahead and do it. For example, let’s look at this part of a student’s personal statement:

"As I entered undergrad, I remained solely focused on academic success. I graduated my first year of college with a 3.97 GPA, but I was slowly isolating myself from the campus community, my classmates, and my friends. This realization led me to search for extracurricular activities that would provide a social circle, and I decided to join a local amateur chamber orchestra, having played the violin in high school. This important aspect of my college years is still with me today, and my orchestra mates and I are still performing in a local church every other Sunday afternoon."

With this brief mention of the orchestra, the student demonstrates not only the activity that helped with her manual dexterity skills but also reveals a little bit more about her personality. This works well in this example but you should not include a list of your activities just because you want to show that you worked on your manual dexterity skills – you will be able to mention it in other parts of your application.

And of course, most importantly, you will be certainly asked to discuss the activities that helped you improve manual dexterity in your interview. You should expect this and prepare for this as you practice answers to dental school interview questions. Furthermore, you should expect to demonstrate your skills right during the interview. Yes! It does happen! This is why it is crucial that you do not lie in your application at all – do not embellish your accomplishments or skills, especially for the manual dexterity portions. If you say that you play the violin, you might be asked to perform for the admissions committee. If you say that you have knitted for 15 years, you may be asked to demonstrate your knitting skills in front of the interviewers. Reddit is full of horrible, embarrassing interview stories of students claiming that they possess a certain skill that improved their manual dexterity, but when asked to demonstrate it – they simply freeze and have to come clean. You do not want this to happen to you! 

But you might be thinking "I was not involved in any activities to improve manual dexterity! What do I do?" Well, you still have time to work on this. Remember, the admissions committee does not expect you to be a virtuoso in your chosen activity. They simply need to see that you have spent some time working to improve your hand coordination. So, you can choose to pick up a relevant hobby right now! Read on below for our top advice on how to improve your manual dexterity. 

Check out stellar dental school personal statement examples in our video:

How to Improve Your Manual Dexterity

As we already mentioned, the activity you choose to get involved in does not have to be related to dentistry or be what we might call “prestigious”. Most importantly, you should choose something you would like; an activity that you would actually enjoy doing. For example, have you always wanted to learn how to play the guitar? Now is the time! Or have you always wanted to try to work in watercolor? Now is your chance! Consider this as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand, you will pick up an enjoyable hobby and learn a new skill, and on the other, you will demonstrate to the admissions committee that you took the steps to improve this important skill before entering dental school.

Remember, you do not have to become Paganini or Rembrandt in whatever activity you choose to pursue. However, the earlier you start the better. Why? Because you do want to demonstrate that you spent considerable time building your fine motor skills. While you do not have to completely master your chosen activity, it’s always good to show that you dedicated quality time to prepare for dental school. 

Wondering who can help you with your dental school application and interview? Check this out:

What Can You Expect in the Interview? Sample Answers Included!

Now, let’s discuss specifically how your manual dexterity skills may be evaluated during the interview. Remember, whatever interview format your chosen school uses, it is more than likely that they will ask you to discuss or demonstrate the way you developed your fine motor skills. Whether it’s an MMI or a traditional panel interview, be prepared for this. So, let’s dive in!

Interview Questions

You may be simply asked to discuss what kind of activities helped you develop and improve your manual dexterity skills. But just because you were not asked to physically demonstrate your activity in the interview, you should not forget about the #1 rule of successful interview answers: show, don’t tell.

Remember, you want to impress the interviewer with your answer. So while your activity may be less glamorous than playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, you still want to give an answer that provides insight into how you prepared for dental school and why the admissions committee must choose you as a candidate.

Let’s check out this example:

“For years, my hobby has been reviving old record players. My father owns a repair store in San Francisco, so I have been helping out there since I was a little boy. While growing up, my dad taught me the art of electrical repair, so I can fix pretty much any outdated electrical gadget. But I especially enjoy working with record players, so my hands are well-trained to restore lifeless turntables. The precision and manual dexterity required to work with old turntable parts and elements are significant. Any wrong movement can silence the player forever. But the joy you feel when a player that has been dead for several years can produce the beautiful sound of vinyl records is indescribable. The feeling of accomplishment is immense – your hands have restored this old piece of machinery back to life, so it can continue to fulfill its purpose and let the owner enjoy their collection. The patience and fine motor skills I developed throughout years working with electrical repairs will undoubtedly add to my ability to train as a dentist and to ensure the quality of my work, as well as my patients’ safety.”

Show and Tell

In other words, you can actually bring your activity to the interview. That’s right! Just in case you are asked about your manual dexterity skills and the activity you used to employ them, you can bring your chosen activity with you to the interview. When asked about manual dexterity in the interview, you can list your activities and offer to show the interviewers your skills right there. Of course, if your activity is piano playing, then you might be unable to do the “show and tell”. However, if you knit or stitch, you are welcome to bring the necessary tools with you, in your bag.

Some additional tips:


In some interviews, you are asked to perform a task to demonstrate your manual dexterity skills. In other words, the interviewer will ask you to perform a task right there in the interview and you will need to complete it. This is very common in MMIs, so if you have one of those coming up, make sure to practice with relevant MMI questions.

The possible tasks they may ask you to perform are endless, but here are some you can anticipate and practice for:

As with any interview question, remember to carefully follow the instructions and do exactly what you are asked for. So for example, if your interviewer says “Please bend this wire into a square”, do your best to make sure the shape is as close to a square as possible. If you have any questions, then ask them - it’s better to clarify anything you do not understand before you do the task! Remember to stay calm and collected.

Preparing for your interview? Check out more interview questions to practice with:


Manual dexterity is an important skill to obtain if you want to become a dentist. As we mention in this article, the activities you can participate in to develop this skill are simple and, most importantly, enjoyable! Now you have an excuse to pick up painting or crocheting! Something you might have put off for years to keep up with your academic and extracurricular commitments. Another huge advantage of these activities is that they can really help you manage stress. Many people, including overburdened students, use painting, knitting, and cooking to take their minds off work, school, responsibilities, and so on. Not only will they help you get into dental school, but they will significantly improve your quality of life and let you enjoy time outside of your obligations and assignments.  


1. What is manual dexterity?

It is the ability to work with your hands with high precision and skill.

2. Why do dental schools ask you to demonstrate manual dexterity skills?

Dentists’ most important responsibilities and tasks require fine motor skills. This is why dental schools want to see that you worked to develop these skills before entering dental school.

3. What kind of activities improve manual dexterity?

Any activity that requires using your hands with precision can be used to employ your fine motor skills, such as sewing, knitting, painting, playing a musical instrument, and so on.

4. I do not have any activities in my CV that would demonstrate manual dexterity. What should I do?

You can start getting involved now! You can pick up crocheting or pastry baking right after you read this article!

5. In what part of the application can I discuss the activities that helped me improve my fine motor skills?

You will be able to discuss them in your application components, such as the personal statement of the activities sketch, or the application form may have a separate section where you can indicate your experiences. Additionally, be prepared to discuss or demonstrate your skills in the interview. 

6. Will I need to demonstrate my fine motor skills in the interview?

You will definitely be asked to either discuss or demonstrate them in the interview. For example, you may be asked to perform a simple task, such as pulling a thread through a needle. 

7. If I want to show my skills in the interview, such as electronic repair or painting with oil, how can I do this without bringing my tools?

You can record a short video or take some pictures and bring them to the interview in case the interviewers ask to see you in action. 

8. Should I stress more impressive activities? Or can I simply include my hobbies?

No, the “prestige” of your activities has no effect on the quality of your skills. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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